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BC Assessment celebrates 40 years of value to B.C.

A provincial service Crown corporation, BC Assessment (BCA) is responsible for producing independent, uniform and efficient property assessments on an annual basis, which are used to determine the distribution of property taxes among property owners.

BC Assessment maintains a provincial database of over 1.95 million properties worth a combined total of $1.14 trillion.

Since 1974, BC Assessment has played an essential role in providing property owners and local governments with accurate information for the fair distribution of property taxes that fund important local services used everyday in communities all over the province.

Nearly $6.7 billion in property tax revenue is generated each year across British Columbia to help finance local government services and the K to 12 school system. With a 2014 total operating budget of $88.6 million, the Crown corporation provides nearly two million customers with assessment and other property information services.

Today, BC Assessment is also widely recognized as one of the world’s leading organizations on best practices and innovation for property assessment.

“BC Assessment values properties, partnerships and innovation,” says BC Assessment board chair Judy Rogers. “The public puts their trust in us to assess their properties based on information that is current, reliable and accessible.”

BC Assessment’s success has been achieved as a result of ongoing commitment to these principles.

“Building trust through transparency with British Columbians is how we provide a stable, reliable, uniform and up-to-date annual market-value assessment roll that is the envy of assessment agencies around the world,” explains Connie Fair, BC Assessment president and CEO.

“In fact, we have received delegations and speak at conferences on a regular basis so that others can learn more about one of the best models of creating property assessments and funding local governments.”

The Assessment Authority Act created in 1974 granted government the power to create a province-wide organization “to establish and maintain assessments that are uniform in the whole of British Columbia.” Six months later, BC Assessment produced the province’s first impartial and independent assessment roll and assessment notices.

Major assessment problems that existed prior to the formation of BC Assessment included inefficiency and a lack of professionalism, impartiality and consistency, but BC Assessment’s creation has ensured these issues have been fully resolved.

“I was fortunate enough to become CEO of a great company in 2008 that already had a reputation as one of the best assessment agencies in the world; my goal has been to take us to the leading edge of innovation in our industry to absorb the annual growth in new properties and maintain accurate information,” says Fair.

“When we were created in 1974, we had a staff of 700 and about 800,000 properties on the Assessment Roll. Today, we are responsible for nearly two million properties, but with less staff than when we first started because we have been able to adopt innovative methodologies.”

BC Assessment employs approximately 670 staff working in 16 offices throughout British Columbia.
A current example of how BC Assessment is using business innovation in its work is the enhancement of assessment services to strata property owner customers.

“We are very pleased to be the first property assessment organization in the world to pilot the application of Esri Canada’s new and innovative 3D geographic information system modelling technology,” says Hart Mauritz, BCA’s vice-president of business innovation.

“In the Vancouver Sea-to-Sky assessment region we have over 120,000 residential strata units, growing at a steep rate. It is challenging to physically inspect this property type for assessment purposes.”

The 3D GIS modelling technology from Esri Canada will enable BC Assessment to further enhance the accuracy of its property data and increase operational efficiencies.

When determining assessed values, BC Assessment appraisers analyze timely real estate sales transactions to find comparable properties. In addition, they consider a property’s unique characteristics such as location, age, condition, size and view.

In addition to leading techniques in photo imagery, BC Assessment maintains crucial data on building footprints, electronic building plans and permits, street-front photographs and mapping.

“We have taken this emerging technology to build instruments that an appraiser can use to virtually inspect a property from her or his desktop,” explains Mauritz.

“One of the most interesting instruments allows us to assess the view from a window or balcony of a property. As view is a huge driver of property value in Vancouver, an appraiser can quickly, and with little effort, determine whether the view information we have in our property records is accurate, and in the future property owners will be able to validate this information online.”

Other innovative techniques include a method referred to as Desktop Review. “Instead of appraisers physically walking from house to house to inspect and photograph properties from the street, we are using aerial and street-front imagery combined with electronic mapping, allowing us to triple our productivity,” explains Fair.

Desktop Review allows for a more efficient and cost effective way of updating BC Assessment’s ever-increasing inventory of properties. This technology has already been successfully used throughout Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, the Okanagan, Kamloops and Nanaimo, with plans to eventually capture updated photos of many more residential single-family dwellings across the province.

“BC Assessment is continually working to enhance our online services, notably our website ( that provides extensive information and tools such as e-valueBC to assist property owners in learning, understanding and comparing how their property is assessed,” Fair adds. “We believe our extensive inventory of accurate property information can be helpful to others and we have adopted a strategy of moving from ‘property assessment’ to ‘property information.’”

As a result, BC Assessment is an award-winning organization.

Over the past several years, BC Assessment has been recognized for its excellence in public information campaigns, use of technology and being a top employer.

“We have multiple awards from the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO) for having the world’s best public information program for a property assessment jurisdiction,” says Fair. “This annual award is given to assessment jurisdictions that have developed and implemented an effective system for providing information to taxpayers about the property assessment process.”

Specifically, BC Assessment has been recognized for its annual communications campaign in support of the Assessment Roll, released at the beginning of each year in January.

The accuracy and dependability of BC Assessment’s information is the result of strong partnerships with the primary custodians of the data such as the Land Title and Survey Authority and the BC Real Estate Association.

“We are especially closely aligned with the province’s municipal and regional governments, First Nations and provincial government agencies with whom we exchange information on a daily basis to establish the accuracy and fairness of BC’s property tax base,” says Fair.

“Local governments, for example, pass on information about building permits, which we use to ensure property assessments are current.”

Assessment information is crucial to communities. “Our future is about expanding our value as a source of property information as well as expanding our potential for partnerships,” Fair explains.

By partnering with local governments in data collection, for example, both BC Assessment and local governments can reduce costs and further improve the quality of their information to ensure an accurate tax base.

BC Assessment is the largest employer of professional property appraisers in North America, and ranked as one of the top employers in British Columbia, according to Canada’s Top 100 Employers and British Columbia’s Top Employers.

“We are a great place to work by balancing innovation and technology with stability, employee development and a supportive, diverse workplace where trustworthy, skilled people can find a challenging career that contributes to our communities,” states Fair.

“We have a team of talented people who work hard to provide an excellent service to property owners all over British Columbia. We invest heavily in our people to ensure employees are properly equipped to analyze and interpret property information data.”